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November 15, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Caribbean League Update: Red Sox enter agreement with Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela

For the first time in six years, the Red Sox have sent a large contingent of players to Venezuela. This past June, the Red Sox entered into a two-year agreement with the Bravos de Margarita (Margarita Braves) of the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional, sometimes referred to as the Venezuelan Winter League. Under the agreement, the Bravos will field two teams in the Liga Paralela (Parallel League), the LVBP's minor league. One of these Liga Paralela teams include a large number of young Sox minor leaguers, and according to a release on the Bravos' website, the Red Sox will provide coaches for both teams and provide some community benefits in Margarita.

From a Red Sox perspective, this move has many benefits. It allows a larger contingent of young Sox players to get more experience, as now reflected on the SoxProspects Fall and Winter League Rosters page. In all, nineteen Sox are on this "Boston" Liga Paralela squad, whereas typically only a handful play in the league each year. Among the bigger names currently playing for the Boston club are Michael AlmanzarHeiker Menesesand Yeiper Castillo. After 19 games, Almanzar, in particular, has performed well, ranking among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category. He is, however, one of the more advanced players in the league as only four of his teammates have played above Rookie ball.

You can follow the prospects on the Red Sox "affiliate" in the Liga Paralela on the team's webpage. The league runs from October 12 through December 16, followed by playoffs. Although not directly stemming from the clubs' contractual agreement, their relationship may have also played a part in Ryan Lavarnway playing with the LVBP Bravos before being sent home due to sickness.

The agreement also allows the  Red Sox to increase their presence in Venezuela, a country that has produced such stars as Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, Ozzie Guillen, and Omar Vizquel, as well as current Sox lefty Felix Doubront. The Red Sox actually had an affiliate in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2004 (Ciudad Alianza) and 2005 (a shared affiliate with San Diego), but have been among a number of major league teams to abandon that circuit, which shrunk to just six teams in 2011. Among the alumni of those two Sox affiliates are two players to have made the majors: Doubront and Argenis Diaz. The Bravos' press release also states that the Red Sox will be scouting the country for the best talent, and will send those players to play for the Bravos. 

While this agreement was completed when Theo Epstein was still the General Manager, it reinforces what Ben Cherington said in his first press conference as GM, that the Red Sox will be very aggressive in finding the best talent from around the world.